Indian Hill Manor and Farm Master Landscape Plan
Smeja Family Foundation
Indian Hill Manor & Farm is an historic property located above the confluence of the Kishwaukee and Rock rivers in Rockford, Illinois. Charles and Esta Barrett built the manor house in 1918 in the Georgian revival style, and over the course of many years developed grounds and a series of gardens that were informed by both naturalistic and formal landscape styles. During this time the surrounding fields, pastures, and woodlots were operated as a “gentleman’s farm” for their instructional value and pleasure, rather than for more practical concerns or economic objectives.
In 1971 the property was purchased by the Smeja family, who later started the Smeja Family Foundation in order to preserve and maintain the property, which had been reduced to a core of 41 acres around the manor and farm, with outlying fields no longer part of the property. The foundation’s goals are to restore and protect the historic fabric of the buildings and surrounding landscape; and to develop new uses, programs, activities and amenities to enhance users’ experience and to increase visitation.
Wolff Landscape Architecture was retained to prepare a Master Landscape Plan that would establish a framework for future development and operations, while honoring and protecting historic fabric and interests. The plan accommodates current users (for example, the Smeja Family and the local FFA chapter), but also seeks to attract and accommodate new users including garden enthusiasts and groups studying native ecology. The plan addresses access, vehicular and pedestrian circulation, and parking; a new visitor center with bathrooms; leeching fields; workshops for assembly and display; an arboretum; nature trails; farm with active agricultural fields, orchards, apiculture, and silviculture; community gardening, and farm buildings, coops, and paddocks to support domestic livestock.
Throughout the planning process the Secretary of Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties” was referenced to guide restoration and preservation efforts and to help with the selection of the appropriate preservation treatment.